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By Matt Wilson – San Jose Mercury News, September 16, 2015

Sand Hill Property Co. has officially submitted its plan to radically transform Vallco Shopping Mall, but it’s expected to take well over a year before Cupertino city officials consider giving the green light to a project that boasts the “world’s largest green roof.”

Sand Hill filed its application for The Hills at Vallco project with the city on Sept. 15.

Late last month, Sand Hill unveiled its $3 billion plan to revitalize the nearly 40-year-old shopping mall by converting it to an unprecedented mix of a downtown city center and a mostly public rooftop featuring open space and trails.

The plan was shown to the public by Sand Hill representatives at an Aug. 26 Cupertino Rotary Club meeting.

“The revitalization of Vallco has been one of the city’s highest priorities for more than two decades and this proposal has certainly captured the public’s attention,” Cupertino Mayor Rod Sinks said in a city-issued statement. “Our residents look forward to a thorough review of the project and an opportunity to weigh in.”

According to Sand Hill’s plan, the outdated and struggling Vallco mall will be replaced by a new downtown-style city center with a blend of retail, dining, entertainment, recreation, housing, offices and open space.

The company wants to demolish much of the approximately 1.2-million-square-foot mall and parking area, then build 625,000 square feet of commercial and civic areas; 800 residential units, including 680 market-rate units, 80 below-market-rate units and 40 senior-age-restricted units; and 2 million square feet of office space.

The project’s centerpiece 30-acre green roof would sport public trails, an amphitheater, a community center and retail kiosks. If completed, it would be the largest park in Cupertino, according to Sand Hill.

The green space would include some private areas and recreational uses, such as a fitness center, a clubhouse and pool. Two public town squares totaling approximately 2.98 acres would be built at ground level.

In addition to restaurants and retail, Sand Hill could build a transit center. Meanwhile, it would retain the AMC movie theater, ice skating rink, health club and bowling alley.

Underground, surface and structure parking would be built to accommodate 9,175 vehicles.

Sand Hill also is planning a 5,000 square-foot community center and a “high school innovation center” for students to work on projects and showcase their work.

In the coming months, city officials will review the plan for compliance with building code and municipal ordinances and conduct an environmental review. The project will go through public hearings before the planning commission and a final review and public hearing before the city council.

Before anything can be built, the city must approve a specific plan for the project, a development agreement, a conditional use permit, zoning conformance and various permits, maps and agreements.

This is the first time Vallco has been under a single ownership in its nearly 40 year history. With Sears set to close in October, the 1.2 million square foot mall has a tenant occupancy that is inching toward 50 percent. A previous convoluted ownership structure handcuffed each mall owner from pursuing improvements as just about every redevelopment decision required the unanimous consent of its major anchor stores,.

Sand Hill officials say the combination of that ownership structure and competition from other high-end shopping centers like Stanford Shopping Center and Westfield Valley Fair made it difficult for the mall to change with the times.

All four Vallco parcels were purchased by Sand Hill in pieces for approximately $316,000,000 late last year. The purchases included $32,600,000 for the Macy’s site, $65,300,000 for the J.C Penney site, and $102,500,000 for Sears site, and the interior mall for $116,000,000, Sand Hill officials told this newspaper in March.

For information about the project review process, including renderings, site plans, and diagrams, visit cupertino.org/thehillsatvallco